Marcella Jimenez ’16
While I do not know what the future holds, I know it must touch education in some way. I hope to teach, work on education policy, or act as a social worker in schools.
Hometown: Richardson, Texas
I grew up in Richardson, TX, a city north of Dallas, and attended a public school that I started walking to with my friends when I was in second grade. It was a school embedded into the community, with sufficient resources, and a friendly staff. Around 3rd grade, my parents started talking about placing me in a private school. When I asked them why, they explained that the school’s emphasis on standardized testing, mandated by the state of Texas, was diluting my education—when I complete assignments early I filed paperwork and stapled handouts for teachers, and during free reading time I was often asked to read with students who were struggling. While I denied their criticisms of my beloved elementary school, I couldn’t help but notice the faults and flaws that abounded within the classroom. While ultimately I ended up at a private, co-ed school in Dallas, their comments and my vicarious experience of public school from my childhood friends inspired me to think critically about education: Why do some students get a better education than others? How do you quantify student success? What does critically thinking look like?
During my first year at Bowdoin, I decided to take Contemporary American Education in hope for some answers to these tough questions. However, after a few weeks of intense course readings and dynamic discussions, I found myself with more questions than answers! I quickly discovered the layers of complexity that lie beneath the surface of American education and was enthralled by the systems of inequality, that contribute to the challenges of public education, as well as the hard work of teachers and schools that point towards the promise that lies within schools. The following semester, I enrolled in Educating All Students and spent 4 hours a week working with a middle school student at Brunswick Junior High. A bright-eyed, seventh grade girl, she embodied the dichotomies and challenges we read about and discussed in class. My relationship with her enriched and complicated my understanding of how middle schoolers learn and view themselves in the classroom.
With a couple semesters of education under my belt, a professor of mine encouraged me to pursue a summer internship in the education field. With her support and counsel, I spent the summer before my junior year working as an Education Policy Research Intern at the Children’s Defense Fund in Washington D.C. During my internship, I attended hearings on Capitol Hill, lobbied for early childhood education legislation, and researched important issues surrounding school equity. My research focused predominantly on disproportionality in school discipline, disparities in school funding, and the implication of Common Core for poor children and children of color. This experience served as the perfect springboard into Doris Santoro’s Urban Education course, in which I’m currently enrolled.
While I do not know what the future holds, I know it must touch education in some way. I hope to teach, work on education policy, or act as a social worker in schools. Although schools are not sufficient to solve for systemic inequality, they are necessary. Through my coursework and conversations with education professors, I’ve come to learn what the state of education in the U.S. looks like, as well as imagine what it could be.
Michelle Kruk ’16
Ultimately, I have found education to be the source of my own emancipation and a tool through which others can undergo incredible journeys of self-discovery.
Hometown: Chicago, Illinois
I was born and raised in the Northwest side of Chicago. It wasn’t until I started attending a well-funded selective-enrollment, public high school that I realized the inequity present in the Chicago Public School system. I saw the same system that allowed me to flourish and develop intellectually fail my friends from elementary school who attended neighborhood public high schools. I struggled to understand why these stark disparities in education existed and how it was that my dear city was most known for a failing public school educational system. I credit my public, Chicagoan education and the teachers along the way who served as mentors as a huge part of the reason of why I am currently attending Bowdoin College. I became inspired and driven to grasp the ailments of a system that was largely failing my peers, yet had the potential to be a place in which they could thrive.
I delayed taking an education course until my sophomore year when my schedule would finally allow it. Instantly, I fell in love with everything about education and the Education Department at Bowdoin. I decided to become an Education Studies minor partly due to the fact that I find the material interesting and largely because of Doris Santoro – a professor in the Education Department. This will be my third semester in a row of being in a class with Prof. Santoro and I cannot imagine the department without her. Doris has challenged me intellectually and emotionally in thinking about education in all its complexities: urban education, teaching, the process of learning, the human condition as it relates to education, race, culture, social expectations, standardization, etc. Ultimately, I have found education to be the source of my own emancipation and a tool through which others can undergo incredible journeys of self-discovery. I hope to one day become a professor at a university or college (like Bowdoin) and create a space where education can serve my students in just as transformative of a way as it has served me.
Alexandra Alvarez ’13
The classes and content I have studied in the department have developed in me a critical, yet thoughtful, lens towards education systems and the possibilities for improvement and growth
Hometown: Chicago, Illinois
I come from a family of educators. Mother, aunts, uncles, grandparents, they were all involved in education in some way. And while they never pushed a degree or career in education it seems their passion has rubbed off on me. I spent a lot of time in high school mentoring youth and tutoring. I continued to do volunteer service at Bowdoin, which along with my classes in Sociology and Education Studies guided me towards the decision to minor in Education Studies and consider further job opportunities in the field post-Bowdoin.
What really confirmed my interest in education, though, was the department at Bowdoin. The professors and students of the department are extraordinary individuals. Chuck Dorn, Doris Santoro, Nancy Jennings, and Katie Byrnes are some of the unbelievable professors I have had the pleasure to interact with. The classes and content I have studied in the department have developed in me a critical, yet thoughtful, lens towards education systems and the possibilities for improvement and growth—both within me and within the large public/private/independent education system currently in place in the U.S. I hope to be a positive contribution to the field as I take what I have learned at the Education Studies Department at Bowdoin into future jobs and graduate schools.
I am currently completing an Advanced Independent Study with Doris Santoro about school governance and teacher leadership. I am also enrolled in Mindfulness in Education with Katie Byrnes. After I graduate this year I hope to work in urban schools and expose myself to further challenges facing education today while continuing to work with youth and passionate professionals.
Alumni Update: Alex is now a 3rd grade Bilingual Teacher at Viola H. Nelson School – District 63 in Illinois.
Sasha Davis ’13
I found that not only did I love reading about public education, classroom experiences and pedagogy, and learning differences, but I also lit up when I was given a chance to actively participate and observe in middle school classrooms.
Hometown: Washington, D.C.
I came to Bowdoin with the intention of taking some education courses, but I definitely was not totally committed to the idea of being involved in education long term after graduation. In fact, I was the classic first-year liberal arts student in my quest for a major and a pathway to a potential occupation—I went from wanting to be a doctor, to a physician’s assistant, to a lawyer, to a researcher and analyst at a think tank, and I’m probably even leaving a few of out. I took classes in all different departments until it came time for me to declare my major (Government and Legal Studies), but all during that colorful journey to my eventual decision, I was enrolled in education classes.
My Education 1101 class first captivated me in the fall semester of my freshman year. A graduate of a public magnet school in the DC Public School System, I came to Bowdoin full of opinions about public education. I thought I knew all the answers, but this class forced me to employ critical thinking and analysis skills I never even thought could be used to understand public education and the reasons why it is the way it is today. I continued on in my classes after 101 and fell in love with the on-site classroom components in the teaching courses I continued to take. I found that not only did I love reading about public education, classroom experiences and pedagogy, and learning differences, but I also lit up when I was given a chance to actively participate and observe in middle school classrooms.
It was through this seamless blend between theory and practice that I was able to identify my passion at Bowdoin. I love theory and the breakthrough moments that happen in class when I start to fully understand the concepts being discussed in lecture and seminar-style conversations, but I am truly addicted to taking that theory and applying it in middle school classrooms. Bowdoin’s education program creates a safe space for emerging teachers to not only learn the methods and practical skills of effective classroom instruction, but it also prepares them with a sound theoretical background I find necessary to being successful in a classroom.
Right now, the only plan that is for certain is that I am graduating in the spring. I am looking at and have applied to a couple of different certification and Masters in Teaching programs in New England. While my immediate future plans will be up in the air until April, I do know that I plan on returning to a city and becoming a middle school teacher in an urban school district in the near future. 13-year-old-me would have rolled her eyes and laughed if I told her now that 21-year-old-me wanted to be a middle school teacher, but I cannot imagine working with any other age group or any in any other capacity other than teaching right now.
ALUMNI UPDATE: Sasha completed her Master of Arts in Teaching degree at Smith College, and is now a 6th grade English teacher at Washington Latin Public Charter School in Washington DC.
Dominique Wein ’15
My education classes made me realize is that my community needed excellent teachers to counteract the effects of inequality and that I wanted to be a teacher so I could show my students that they were all valuable whether they were good at “doing school” or not.
Hometown: Memphis, TN
I attended inner city public schools in Memphis through primary and secondary school whose population consisted of mostly low-income African American students. As a student in elementary school I was classified as “gifted.” Because of this I was afforded many opportunities many of my classmates were not such as extracurricular activities, summer programs, and more academic enrichment in general. My teachers viewed me as superior to my peers because they saw me as possessing some motivation that allowed me to be more academically successful than them. I saw my peers as lacking something to motivate them and so for college I was determined to leave Memphis, determined to find something better for me.
The two education classes at Bowdoin that really changed my mindset about my community and inspired me to pursue teaching were Education 1101 (Contemporary Issues in Education) and Education 2203 (Educating all Students). These classes made me realize a few things. First, these classes made me realize that I was no better than my classmates back home, I was just good at “doing “school. I was able to sit in my chair, do whatever my teacher told me, memorize facts, and follow directions without complaint. Even when I wasn’t actually learning anything my teachers saw me as the ideal student because they did not have to worry about me misbehaving. Second, I realized that my classmates didn’t just have a lack of motivation that was keeping them from succeeding. For minority students in low income areas, there are larger societal structures that work against them including attending schools with subpar facilities and resources, racism, and classism that provides unequal opportunities in the education system. The last thing my education classes made me realize is that my community needed excellent teachers to counteract the effects of inequality and that I wanted to be a teacher so I could show my students that they were all valuable whether they were good at “doing school” or not.
In the spring semester of 2015, I will be completing the Bowdoin Teacher Scholars program. This program will no doubt give me invaluable experiences in curriculum, planning, management, and assessing student learning that I hope to bring to my first year of teaching as a 2015 Teach for America corps member in Memphis, TN.
Cully Brownson ’14
The structure of the courses in the Education Department spiraled to a culmination with the practicum experience, which I feel enabled me to leave Bowdoin as an educator equipped to meet the challenges faced in 21st> century classrooms.
Hometown: Napoleon, OH
Major: Mathematics and Education
Placement School: Greely High School (Cumberland, ME)
Subject Areas: High school math (algebra I, algebra II, geometry, trigonometry, probability)
Though I come from a family of educators, I did not realize the passion I had for teaching until I arrived at Bowdoin and enrolled in Contemporary American Education. I had always loved math and science, and figured I would study physics or environmental studies while at Bowdoin. After delving into a study of the major issues that historically and currently affect the educational landscape in America, I was engrossed in the philosophy, politics, successes, and failures of our education system.
Upon continuing my studies in education, I only became more inspired. I began to further reflect on the impact that countless teachers have had on my life, and my only desire was to reciprocate that feeling for future students. What proved perhaps most beneficial to me was how the students and faculty in the Education Department embodied a tremendously holistic view of teaching and learning. We never saw ourselves as distinct groups of just math teachers or just English teachers, but a group of peers with a common passion. This enabled us to focus on addressing the major challenges of education from a unique collective mindset, while contemplating our disciplines from a remarkably integrated viewpoint.
It would be difficult for me to say a single course influenced me more than another, because each one was uniquely special. The understandings I gained from Mindfulness in Education were distinct from those gained in Curriculum, just as the insights from Educational Psychology were distinct from those of Teaching and Learning. Together, the structure of the courses in the Education Department spiraled to a culmination with the practicum experience, which I feel enabled me to leave Bowdoin as an educator equipped to meet the challenges faced in 21st century classrooms.
ALUMNI UPDATE: Cully is teaching high school mathematics at the Washington Waldorf School in Bethesda, Maryland.
Molly Porcher ’13
Knowing that after graduation I want to be involved in public schools, getting Maine State certified through Bowdoin Teacher Scholars is the perfect beginning to what I hope is a long career in education!
Hometown: Stow, MA
Placement school: Casco Bay High School (Portland, ME)
Subject area: 11th grade Social studies
I’ve been interested in teaching long before I came to Bowdoin. In fact, beginning as early as middle school I envisioned myself as a teacher—I even kept notes on lessons or activities from school that I particularly enjoyed, imagining that I would one day use them in my own classroom! As someone who sincerely enjoys connecting with others and thrives off of communication, I always thought of teaching as the ideal profession. At Bowdoin, my education courses widened my perspective and challenged my assumptions; they forced me to see teaching as far more complicated and the role as teacher as far more nuanced (and difficult) than my younger self had always imagined. But my coursework also reinforced my desire to be a teacher; it expanded my reasoning for wanting to teach from a largely abstract desire to a defined understanding of what was important in the classroom and the crucial part that teachers play in shaping this learning environment. Through one class at Bowdoin, I had the opportunity to work individually with a high school student who was struggling in class and at risk of failing. Her trouble lay in transition to a new school, trouble at home, and difficulty processing in the traditional classroom environment. My experience with her reinforced the mantra that every student can learn and that individual student needs are highly important. Although she has since graduated and is taking classes at a local community college, we are still close today and see each other often, a constant reminder of why I want to teach. Now confident that I want to go on to be a teacher, Bowdoin Teacher Scholars provides an amazing opportunity that allows me to pursue my long-time goal of being a teacher while still supported by the Bowdoin community and the Bowdoin education department. Knowing that after graduation I want to be involved in public schools, getting Maine State certified through Bowdoin Teacher Scholars is the perfect beginning to what I hope is a long career in education!
ALUMNI UPDATE: Molly has recently moved to New York City following a year as an Inclusion Associate at Codman Academy in Boston.
Rachel Lopkin ’13
Sometime after graduation, I hope to obtain a master's degree in Education Policy so that I can work towards solving some of these issues facing the American educational system today.
Hometown: South Salem, NY
Placement school: Greely High School (Cumberland, ME)
Subject area: French 2 and French 3
One of the many reasons I came to Bowdoin was for the Bowdoin Teacher Scholars program. The fact that I could, as an undergrad, become a certified French teacher was immensely appealing to me. Starting with ED 1101 my very first semester here, my interest in education studies only continued to grow as I learned about the vast and varied challenges of educating children. I went from simply wanting to communicate and hopefully transfer my enormous passion and enthusiasm for the French language and Francophone studies, to wanting to understand the differences and the tensions between what education should and what education does look like in America. My experience studying abroad in Paris last year only solidified this interest, as I compared and contrasted the French and American educational systems. I started to question my own definitions of education and teaching, and began to analyze my own experiences as a public school student. What does it mean to be a successful student? How do we demonstrate acquired knowledge? How do we successfully engage students with the material at hand? What is the role of a teacher, both in and beyond the walls of the classroom? And so on. As my interest in education studies grew, I knew that the only way to truly understand the issues behind these questions was to get in front of the classroom myself. I know that my experiences as a full-time student teacher at Greely will help me to answer some of these questions, but will also open up new paths of inquiry and create even bigger challenges. I look forward to tackling these challenges with the help of the Education department here at Bowdoin and of my cooperating teachers at Greely. Sometime after graduation, I hope to obtain a master’s degree in Education Policy so that I can work towards solving some of these issues facing the American educational system today.
ALUMNI UPDATE: After a year of teaching English in France, Rachel has returned to the States to pursue a Master’s degree in policy at Harvard University Graduate School of Education.
Matt Bernstein ’13
A large part of my decision to come to Bowdoin was because I knew that I would have the opportunity to pursue a teaching certification as an undergraduate.
Hometown: London, England
Placement School: Casco Bay High School (Portland, ME)
Subject area: 9th grade Social studies
When I was a sophomore in high school, I had the great fortune to participate in a service trip to Tanzania. While there, I taught some classes at a local school and instantly fell in love with teaching. I loved being able to see, and even feel a part of, moments where students developed understanding and showed an incredible excitement for education. After this experience, I became extremely interested in becoming a teacher. A few years later, when I was looking at different colleges, I was drawn to Bowdoin’s offer of a teacher certification program. Indeed, a large part of my decision to come to Bowdoin was because I knew that I would have the opportunity to pursue a teaching certification as an undergraduate. Throughout my Bowdoin experience, I have been fortunate enough to work with students of all ages in both rural and urban schools. Each and every experience I have had has solidified and strengthened my desire to teach. The students I have worked alongside have continued to inspire me and they have shown me the great benefits of being a teacher. I have decided to participate in Bowdoin Teacher Scholars because after all my overwhelmingly positive experiences working with students, I know that I want to teach. BTS is a big part of the reason why I came to Bowdoin and, although I’ve changed a lot since I was 15, I still love the moments where I can see a student learning and enjoying their education. In my opinion, BTS is a way for me to see more of those moments and a great opportunity for me to develop the skills I need to make those moments happen more often in my future classrooms.
ALUMNI UPDATE: After a year at an expeditionary learning school in Rhode Island, Matt has returned to Casco Bay HS as a 9th grade Social Studies teacher.
Bill Griffiths ’14
The great relationships I formed with my teachers helped me not only become a better student and person but also led me to realize that I wanted to make a difference in a similar way.
Hometown: Darien, Connecticut
I credit my past teachers for inspiring my interest in education. From elementary school to high school I had thoughtful and caring role models who expanded my horizons and made school a safe, welcoming place. The great relationships I formed with my teachers helped me not only become a better student and person but also led me to realize that I wanted to make a difference in a similar way. By becoming an educator, I hope that I can be a meaningful mentor for others too.
I might be becoming teacher-biased, but I believe the professors of the Bowdoin Education Department have also contributed enormously to my education. Doris Santoro, Nancy Jennings, and Katie Byrnes bring a great variety of perspectives, insights, and passions into their classrooms, encouraging students to think more critically and reflectively. These aims are complemented really well with hands-on learning experiences in local public schools. Working intensively in a 5th grade classroom in Brunswick’s own Harriet Beecher Stowe Elementary for Education 2203 and in a high school social studies classroom at a K-12 school on Vinalhaven Island for Education 3301/3302 gave me the chance to apply and cross-check what I have learned from my Bowdoin courses, making my education courses all the more meaningful and engaging. Educating in these communities has also given me some lifetime memories along with a defense against the effects of the mythical “Bowdoin Bubble”.
I am enrolled in Education 3325 (Mindfulness in Education) for the spring of 2013 and am considering pursuing an honors project on the history of American education for my senior year. As for post-graduation, I plan on teaching high school social studies and pursuing graduate studies in education or education policy, perhaps returning to campus along the way to earn a public teaching certification as a Bowdoin Teacher Scholar. Regardless of where my career ends up though, I believe my time and studies here at Bowdoin and in the education department will prove invaluable.
ALUMNI UPDATE: Bill is a member of the Bowdoin Teacher Scholars Spring 2015 cohort and will be student teaching in Portland.
Zoe Eiber ’13
It was always a worry of mine that if I committed too much to education at an undergraduate level, I would shut the door on other opportunities, but at Bowdoin, it’s possible to do it all.
Hometown: Miami, Florida
Placement School: King Middle School (Portland)
Subject Area: 7th/8th grade Spanish
I first became interested in education when working for Breakthrough Collaborative in high school. Through my work with the program, I decided that I loved teaching, but when I came to college, I hadn’t intended on taking any education classes. I thought that going to college to “become a teacher” seemed far too vocational for my indecisive nature and I liked the idea of not being holed into a particular subject. However, I fell into Education 1101 my freshman spring and it quickly became one of my favorite classes.
I liked the idea of continuing with education and being able to relate my experiences to a field placement. With that, I signed up for Education 2203—Educating all Students. I struggled with the decision again to sign up for 3301 and 3302—Teaching, Learning and Curriculum—but after hearing good feedback from other students, I decided to take them. It was a good decision as the discussions in class, combined with my experience in my placement, solidified my desire to teach. With all of these great experiences in the department, I had no hesitation in signing up for the Mindfulness in Education class next semester.
One of the great things about the education department at Bowdoin is that I still had the opportunity to get my ‘liberal arts education.’ I was still able to complete a major, take many other classes and even study abroad. It was always a worry of mine that if I committed too much to education at an undergraduate level, I would shut the door on other opportunities, but at Bowdoin, it’s possible to do it all.
I’m so glad that I’ve had these experiences with the education department. Although it can sometimes be frustrating to wrestle with the issues in education, I like the idea that there is never a clear answer—and it seems to match the type of work that education involves. Working with people is ever changing and can be subjective. I like the holistic approach that the department takes to teaching educational ideas and that we are able to gain a hands-on understanding of the successes and challenges while in our placements.
Though I’m not sure what my next step is, I am currently exploring several different avenues, all of which involve teaching in some capacity.
ALUMNI UPDATE: After completing student teaching at King Middle School as part of the Bowdoin Teacher Scholars Spring 2014 cohort, Zoe is teaching Spanish at Hall-Dale High School in Farmingdale, Maine.